“Three Marks of True Religion”
Three Marks of True Religion
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jam. 1:26-27). James concluded his discussion of hearing and doing with a discussion of true religion (Jam. 1:20-25). James’ point was simple - true religion hears and does. True religion is not convincing ourselves or others that we are religious. Both can be, and often are, deceived. The Pharisees are a good example of this dual-deception (Mt. 23:27-36). True religion is showing that we are religious by hearing and doing. In the final two verses of the first chapter, James gives three marks of true religion.
Conversation - True Religion Bridles The Tongue
The first mark of true religion is conversation (Jam. 1:26). For good or bad, our speech often gives us away (Mt. 26:73; Judg. 12:6). It reveals what is within our hearts (Mt. 12:33-37). Angry words, unkind words, untrue words, and impure words are an indicator of heart problems. They are an indicator that our heart hasn’t been cleansed or changed. The man who thinks that his religion is true, but doesn’t control his tongue, is just deceiving himself. His religion will profit him nothing. It is empty. A religion that doesn’t control the tongue can’t possibly save the soul. If our religion is true, it will be revealed in our speech. It will be revealed by a tongue under control (Jam. 3:1-12; cf. Psa. 34:13; Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6).
Consideration - True Religion Visits Orphans And Widows
The second mark of true religion is consideration (Jam. 1:27). How we care for the widows, the fatherless, and the poor are indicators of the genuineness of our faith (Jam. 2). To visit the fatherless and the widows is more than a social call. It is seeing their need and supplying it (Lk. 1:68). It is more than words. It is not just saying, “Be warmed and filled,” it is giving them the things that they need (Jam. 2:16). It is not just supplying their needs once, but again and again, if necessary. The Greek word translated as visit is present tense. Present tense in the Greek denotes ongoing action. The man who thinks that he is religious but doesn’t care for those in need is deceiving himself. The religion that doesn’t provide for others cannot possibly save the soul. It is empty. It profits nothing (Jam. 2:14-17). If our religion is true, pure and undefiled before God and the Father, it will care for widows and orphans as the Father does (Psa. 68:4-5; 146:9; Isa. 1:16-17; Mk. 14:7).
Consecration - True Religion Keeps Itself Unspotted From The World
The third mark of true religion is consecration (Jam. 1:27). If our religion is true, then it will be revealed by our relationship to the world. True religion involves separation (2 Cor. 6:17-18) and transformation from the world (Rom. 12:2). In the fourth chapter, James strongly rebuked his brethren for their involvement with the world (Jam. 4:4; cf. Mt. 6:24). They needed to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts (Jam. 4:8). The man who thinks that he is religious, but doesn’t keep himself unspotted from the world is deceiving himself. His religion is neither pure nor undefiled. It is empty and it will profit him nothing. Our God is a holy God. If we are His people, then we must be holy (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
Three marks of true religion are conversation, consideration, and consecration. How would your religion fare if judged by these three things? Would it be pure or impure? Would it be full or empty? Would it justify or condemn?